ITHACA, N.Y., Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Engineers at Cornell University in New York say they've created the first-ever 3-D-printed consumer electronic product, a working loudspeaker.
Integrating the plastic, conductive and magnetic parts, the speaker if ready for use almost as soon as it comes out of the printer, the university reported Monday.
It's a process that may soon become familiar, the researchers said; rather than assembling consumer products from parts and components, complete functioning products could be fabricated at once, on demand.
Apoorva Kiran and Robert MacCurdy, Cornell graduate students in mechanical engineering, led the project with Cornell engineering Professor Hod Lipson.
A loudspeaker was chosen for the first project because it is a relatively simple object, Kiran said, consisting of plastic for the housing, a conductive coil and a magnet.
Creating a simple device like a loudspeaker is just the "tip of the iceberg," Lipson said, adding 3-D-printing technology could be moving from printing passive parts toward printing active, integrated systems.
Creating a market for printed electronic devices, he said, could be like introducing color printers after only black and white had existed. "It opens up a whole new space that makes the old look primitive," he said.